We arrived at the final year of the New York Yankees’ record dynasty on MLB Monday, as this season represents the fifth straight time the Bronx Bombers won the World Series—a mark that probably will never be broken. Some of the voting during this streak was a little deranged, too, so we are here to correct those issues, obviously. But this year had some intriguing vote results for the other pennant winner.
Read on to find out what this year’s analyses will bring …
1953 AL MVP: Al Rosen (original, confirmed)
The Yankees finished 8.5 games ahead of Cleveland for the AL pennant, but Indians third baseman Al Rosen still won the MVP vote. And it was the right call, as he led all MLB position players with 10.1 WAR in 1953. The next-best player in the league was Detroit Tigers infielder Ray Boone (5.9 WAR). That’s how dominant Rosen’s season was for Cleveland. The Yankees’ Mickey Mantle (5.8) was third in WAR, by the way.
Rosen hit .336 while leading the AL in the following categories: runs (115), home runs (43), RBI (145), slugging percentage (.613), OPS (1.034), and total bases (367). His glove work equated to 1.0 dWAR as well, so he did his job in the field as well as the plate. Strangely, Rosen would be out of baseball after the 1956 season, so this was the peak of his career, by far.
1953 NL MVP: Roy Campanella (original), Duke Snider (revised)
The Brooklyn Dodgers won the league pennant by 13 games over the Milwaukee Braves, and Dodgers catcher Roy Campanella won the MVP vote. In 1951, we took his voted award away in favor of his teammate Jackie Robinson, and once again, we must take his hardware away in favor of a teammate who had a better season. It’s not Jackie this time, although Robinson (6.9) did finish with a higher WAR mark than Campanella (6.8).
Dodgers center fielder Duke Snider (9.2) topped the NL in WAR by more than a full win over Braves third baseman Eddie Mathews (8.1). St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan Musial (7.6) was next, followed by Robinson and Campanella. Snider finished third in the MVP vote, while Mathews was second.
For the record, Snider’s numbers were pretty impressive: NL-best marks in runs (132), SLG (.627), OPS (1.046), and TB (370), and he hit .336 with 42 HRs and 126 RBI, too. Snider also swiped 16 bases while earning 0.6 dWAR in center. It was an all-around incredible year for Snider and the start of his best stretch of career play.
1953 AL Cy Young: Billy Pierce
This is a weird award to give, as the top four pitchers threw their stuff for two teams that finished way out of it: Chicago (11.5 games out) and Boston (16). In order, the best mound magicians were Chicago’s Billy Pierce (6.2 WAR), Chicago’s Virgil Trucks (6.0), Boston’s Ellis Kinder (4.4), and Boston’s Mel Parnell (4.2). Remember, we gave this award to Parnell in 1949, but both Red Sox pitchers lag behind here in WAR and in the standings.
So, Pierce or Trucks? Well, in truth, Trucks pitched a good part of the season for St. Louis Browns, the last-place team, and that means some of his value occurred in the void of nowhere, so it’s easy to give this award to Pierce by default. The White Sox ace topped the AL in strikeouts (186) while also posting an 18-12 record with a 2.72 ERA and a 1.172 WHIP. He also gave up the least hits per 9 innings pitched (7.2) in the league.
1953 NL Cy Young: Robin Roberts
This award boils down to Philadelphia wizard Robin Roberts (9.8 WAR)—our winner in 1950 and 1952—and Milwaukee’s Warren Spahn (8.8), our winner in 1947. The Phillies finished in third, which was 9 games below the Braves. Was Roberts’ season that much better than Spahn’s season? It’s darn close, and both earned a lot of votes for the MVP, with Spahn finished fifth and Roberts finishing sixth.
Here are their league-leading marks, respectively: Roberts led the NL in wins (23), complete games (33), innings pitched (346 2/3), strikeouts (198), and fewest walks (1.6) per 9 IP, while Spahn topped his peers in wins (23), ERA (2.10), WHIP (1.058), and fewest hits (7.1) per 9 IP. It’s pretty darn close. The Braves legend only threw 265 2/3 innings, so Roberts and his 2.75 ERA had a lot more value due to the 81 extra innings.
Generally, we think Roberts had to carry a bigger load than Spahn did, although Spahn may have had the higher-quality season. In something this close, too, we look at fielding the mound: Roberts committed just three errors, while Spahn booted four balls—that makes a difference, too, considering all the extra innings the Phillies ace threw from the mound.
Plus, we know Spahn had more help from an MVP candidate on the offensive side of the game with 3B Mathews. While Roberts had CF Richie Asburn (6.4 WAR) for support, it wasn’t the same kind of backing, per se, in terms of WAR augmentation. We originally thought we’d go with Spahn here, but with this kind of nitpicking in a tight analysis, we end up with Roberts again.
1953 AL ROTY: Harvey Kuenn (original), Tom Umphlett (revised)
The Detroit Tigers won just 60 games, finishing 40.5 games out of first place, but their rookie shortstop—Harvey Kuenn—won the vote by hitting .308 and earning 1.7 WAR. Yet Kuenn was actually a negative defender (-0.9 dWAR), without a lot of power (2 HRs) or speed (6 steals).
We give the award instead to Boston center fielder Tom Umphlett (2.0 WAR overall), who hit .283 with 59 RBI while compiling 1.4 dWAR in the process. His OPS was worse than Kuenn’s mark, but Umphlett offered positive value in both phases of the game while also playing for a winning team.
1953 NL ROTY: Jim Gilliam (original), Harvey Haddix (revised)
Perhaps one of the worst votes ever saw Brooklyn second baseman Jim Gilliam (3.9 WAR), who forced teammate Robinson to first base with his ability, win this award over Cardinals pitcher Harvey Haddix (7.3 WAR). Gilliam was clearly a good player—he led the NL in triples (17)—but Haddix had a rookie season for the ages: 20 wins, an NL-best 6 shutouts, and a 1.142 WHIP in 253 IP. Yes, the Dodgers won the pennant, and the Cardinals finished just third, but the WAR gap is too much to ignore all things considered.